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Building 101: The Quick and Dirty Guide to Construction Submittals

A Quick and Dirty Guide to Construction Submittals

In this new age of construction productivity, it’s more important than ever before to stay on top of your game. Fall just a bit behind on time or budget, and you may find yourself losing out to competitors or irretrievably late to forthcoming technology developments–not high on the list of ideal situations. Before construction begins, of the most important aspects of any contractor’s job are construction submittals, which determine the accuracy of project completion, the success of the proposed timeline and the nitty-gritty of the budget.

If you want your construction company to rise above the rest, it’s important to not only understand this term but grasp why it matters to your job, your projects and your life. In our newest installment of the “Building 101” blog series, we’ll take with a close look at what exactly construction submittals are, why they matter, what they consist of and how the submission process typically proceeds.

What Is a Construction Submittal?: A Basic Definition

While part of keeping your head in the game means using the most cutting edge organizational and communication systems to streamline submittals, a big part of remaining on the vanguard is simply understanding the terminology.

Construction submittals are defined by bizfluent as “documents submitted by the contractor to the architect for his approval for use in a project,” while Lexology explains that “Submittals consist of information provided by the contractor to the design professional for approval of equipment, materials, etc. before they are fabricated and delivered to the project.”

Unlike as-built drawings, which are meant to be submitted after construction is complete to show the final form of the project (and are also very important), submittals are furnished beforehand to guide how the project will actually be built.

Older Than You’d Think: A Brief History of Submittals

Although construction submittals is a relatively new term, coined in the last century, the basic idea behind them is very old indeed. Any large construction project requires pre-construction planning, as well as checking and compiling project specifications with the main stakeholders beforehand.

Today, project submittals include much more detailed elements completed in design programs. However, even when completed by hand in a pyramid-side office (one imagines, anyway), they still were a critical part of the building process.

What Documents Are Included in Construction Submittals and Why Do They Matter?

Before construction begins, every piece of equipment, material types and even details such as the exact color of paint need to be reviewed and approved via submittals. Depending on the individual project, construction submittals can involve thousands of different items. These include:

  • Product cut sheets that identify the manufacturer, specifications and model number
  • Shop drawings that lay out the dimensions of such prefabricated products such as trusses, cast concrete, windows, appliances, millwork and more
  • Color and finish selections
  • Color charts
  • Finished product components
  • Material data
  • Samples
  • … and more

These docs are essential to successful construction because they show the project at a very granular level, and allow design professionals to approve the equipment, material and more. Approval needs to happen before items are fabricated and delivered because afterward, it will be too late to prevent unnecessary setbacks in timeline and budget.

The quality of the submittals also matters. The more detail construction submittals provide a better chance of an accurate budget and schedule, resulting in overall project success. But as construction submittals often involve thousands of different materials relating to each project spec, an accurate and organized input is critical. If a high level of detail is not included, or errors are made when creating the submittals log, the whole project may be compromised.

The Construction Submittals Review Process

Construction professionals agree that the submittals review process has traditionally been long and arduous. First, all submittal items must be aggregated from subcontractors, ensuring you have detailed data and specifications for each facet of the project. In the past, this meant a time-intensive manual entry process, ripe for inaccuracies and mistakes. However, new technology solutions on the market can help automate this process. After submittal items are collected, the architect and design team must review everything for compliance, while the general contractor reviews them all to ensure they have the right products and specifications.

A typical submittal workflow looks like this:

Further Reading:  6 Common Causes of Cost Overruns in Construction Projects

Submittals Process

Obviously, the organization is key to running this process smoothly. Without it, the thousands of documents involved and the many layers that comprise a construction project can quickly become overwhelming. To be sure you’ve completely covered your bases when sending off construction submittals, you should follow a routine, replicable number of steps so that you do the same thing every time. Lorman offers a comprehensive look at the tasks required before submitting shop drawings and samples.

Because submittals can consist of so many different and types of documents, it’s critical you have a system for keeping them all in one place. If you’re wondering about a system that’s robust enough to track so many different pieces of collateral all in one place, it may just be time to integrate the right software into the process to help.

How to Improve Construction Submittals

Now that you understand what is a construction submittal and the process, how exactly do you improve the essential, yet at times frustrating construction workflow? It starts by improving three key pillars:

  1. Streamline Administrative Work: Reduces manual errors and delays and improve organization with automated workflows
  2. Provide Complete Visibility: The entire team has access to the needed documents and information right at their fingertips
  3. Advanced Tracking: Anyone can see where submittal items are in the process, at any time, and know where they need to take action next

To learn about 10 leading ways to get submittals approved faster, check out this post. 

Organize and Streamline Your Submittals Process with Software

Previously, the manual and fragmented system to create, track and approve submittals have been inefficient and a manual process. But now, PlanGrid has the first submittals product on the market to help streamline the submittals, saving enormous amounts of time and resources. If you’re looking to automate and standardize submittals on your project, PlanGrid’s Submittals and Automatic Submittal Log might be your answer. By using the right software as a tool to help move submittals along, you can get to construction faster with a reduced risk of error, delays and cost overruns.